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[Editorial] Gov`t Meddling in Univ. Mgmt.

Posted April. 01, 2009 08:32,   


A ranking official at the Education, Science and Technology Ministry is suspected of influencing the election of the Kyonggi University president. After then university president and owner Sohn Jong-kuk was ousted due to an embezzlement scandal in 2004, the university has been managed on an interim basis by directors appointed by the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration. As former university president Lee Tae-il applied to run for the position ahead of the April 13 election, insiders reportedly said Eom Sang-hyun, head of the ministry’s academic research office, pressured Lee “to withdraw his candidacy.” Eom allegedly told Lee that his ministry will appoint an ex-lawmaker of the ruling Grand National Party to the post.

Lee was co-chairman of the now-defunct Uri Party in 2003 and is considered a Roh supporter who was elected by directors named by the Roh administration in 2004. It appears Lee, who was appointed through political favoritism, should reconsider eelection under these circumstances. What is more worrisome, however, is that the incumbent Lee Myung-bak government is responding to the situation in a strikingly similar fashion to that of its predecessor, namely ignoring the independence of a private university.

Certain professors say ministry officials have often visited the university ahead of the election. The ex-lawmaker whom Eom allegedly called “president-elect” of the university passed the first round of screening to become one of the six final candidates. A plot to get a certain person appointed is seemingly proceeding smoothly, as a senior ministry official is blocking Lee from running and is moving to place the government’s choice for the post. As such, the incumbent administration is acting no different than its predecessor. The Roh administration basically robbed the owner of the university and handed the reins over to a leftist, thus seriously infringing upon the right to private property.

A similar incident happened at Sangji University, where the government manipulated personnel management as if it owned the school. Interim directors who have run the university for 16 years have forced out the owner after a corruption scandal. They have elected board directors on their own without due process of consulting with previous directors. In this case, the owner will effectively lose ownership. The Supreme Court in 2007 struck down this unilateral election of directors. Sangji has had no board after the terms of the interim directors expired, but the ministry recently allowed the board to elect a new president. This measure is not legal.

What is more serious is that the outdated practice of government intervention in the management of private universities remains alive and well. The government must follow laws and principles in handling disputes at private universities. State intervention should be banned at private universities and revision of the unconstitutional Private Education Institution Act is also needed.